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#1100515 - 02/17/16 11:10 PM The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing  
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Michael Zaneski Offline
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If you write a personal song, how do you feel about a critiquer suggesting you use something "made-up" to make your personal song stronger?

One of the more enjoyable Seinfeld arcs was how Elaine's boss Peterman, in his biography, uses false stories and parades them as his own; that he uses Kramer's is less important to me than the rather prescient but questionable generalized idea of re-writing history in order to make it more interesting.

And now in the twenty-teen years, critically acclaimed TV series' such as Manhattan and Aquarius are doing that as well. Aquarius throws in major Manson followers that never existed, and Manhattan, which revolves around the making of the A-bomb at Los Alamos, created a lead character (Dr. Frank Winter)--a completely fictional character!

But where Larry David was poking fun at this practice (not unlike how Paddy Cheyesky was creating satire in his script of the movie Network)--this practice of mixing fact and fiction has been co-opted in earnest in many seemingly factual movie scripts like Argo and in TV/cable series' like the aforementioned titles.

And yet Aquarius and Manhattan are well told serialized stories with much of the general things intact, and it's an interesting development in storytelling, but makes me wonder if this will impact how we critique things, and perhaps how we should critique things. It also harkens to the TV series Fringe and makes me feel like these "new paradigm shows" exist in a parallel universe that we're somehow privy to. "A universe like ours, only different," said Walter Bishop.

One major camp of critiquing says that critiquing an author's intention should for the most part be off-limits. By intention something like "what an author intends to say or mean" is meant. This is especially true when it's a true story that is being critiqued--otherwise we're entering into "the Peterman domain," and basically telling an author that if he used a better story or story elements that we might find it more engaging.

Indeed, many critiquers of critiques also think that no matter what kind of world an author sets up, we should be respectful of that world, even if it is a fictional one, and only critique as to whether or not the elements within that author's piece are serving that intention:

As best as you're able, judge an author's work on the basis of their intent. This includes noting instances of the unintended! In consideration of genre, judge the work not on the basis of your interest in the genre, but on the author's skill at writing a piece that strikes the proper chords within the genre they've chosen. (from How to Write a Great Critique by Daniel Rodrigues-Martin).

http://www.scribophile.com/academy/how-to-write-a-great-critique

And yet, much modern criticism falls into another camp which feels very comfortable with critiquing the actual story, and changing parts of it, even if it is a "true" story--taking their leads from shows like Manhattan and Manson. I mean, if a story (true or otherwise) doesn't grab you, a critiquer may and perhaps should feel an obligation to say as much? And in saying as much, the implication is sometimes indeed to change the story.

Take the recent arc of The Walking Dead which is getting pilloried by critics for how the core group seems too invincible and makes the suspension of disbelief difficult. Which is another way of saying, "you need to kill off a major core character soon, or I can't buy this anymore" --pretty much telling the author how and what to write into the story. Not specifically whom to have die, and only by omission, but still..

And what is the intention of, say, "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" and much of Dylan's early work? The more abstract a piece, the more difficult it is to even grasp an author's intention, let alone critique it. This kind of work from lesser folks might provoke critiques alluding to a muddy intention, as in "I can't understand what it is you're trying to say!" And yet a mercurial intention alone will not make a work bad, as we can see with those Dylan examples and Lennon/McCartney example: they "work" in spite of intention being hard to pin down.

So again I ask, If you write a personal song, how do you feel about a critiquer suggesting you use something "made-up" to make your personal song stronger?

Or what if your lyric is a piece of fiction--how do you feel if a critiquer suggests telling a slightly different, more engaging story?

What if the personal lyric isn't very interesting, as written?

What if the actual personal events (in a personal lyric) aren't very compelling, in and of themselves?

Do you have a different way of critiquing when you can't grasp an author's intention?

Where do you draw your personal line, within these two camps?

These are just some thoughts I had after a friend said (paraphrasing) "I usually don't like to critique personal songs as the authors are usually too touchy about them and get really defensive."

Now, what my friend meant to suggest was that sometimes it's okay to suggest that events (true, false and in between) can sometimes be written differently so they simply sing better.

But I go a little further than my friend, and at least wonder if the boundaries are changing. Certainly storytelling has changed. With it, shouldn't critical thought about the storytelling change as well?

And if so, how far will it be okay to go?

One thing I will strongly advocate for, though, is more and better prefaces to songs that deviate in any way from the norm of either a lyric with clear and personal intention, or a clearly fictional piece of lyrical storytelling. For all others, it would be most helpful for a critiquer to know what one's intention is, instead of having to guess and be wrong, upsetting the author in the process.

Thanks for reading.. smile
Mike

Last edited by Michael Zaneski; 02/19/16 07:00 PM.

Fate doesn't hang on a wrong or right choice
Fortune depends on the tone of your voice

-The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon)
from the song "Songs of Love"
from the album "Casanova" (1996)
#1100519 - 02/18/16 12:28 AM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Michael Zaneski]  
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Ray E. Strode Online content
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Um, Well,
No doubt a little fiction is a lot more interesting than fact. The Movie WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE comes to mind. I never have any songs critiqued. No need. But if you do take it for what it's worth. My former Publisher used to say critiques are like *ss *oles, everybody has one!


Ray E. Strode
#1100522 - 02/18/16 02:15 AM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
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9ne Online content
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Yes, a personal song should be posted as such, but I wonder if you're not meaning "factual" in some of your statements. As for "personal", if someone writes a very poorly written song about a family member that died, it wouldn't be correct to critique. Just as I don't think "great song" would be a proper comment either, as it is what it is.

Again, regarding "personal", this relates to the "three sides to every argument" theory. For example: his, hers, and the truth. Therefore, a critique which suggests changing something for the betterment of the song, (which may enable the writers intention to be more effectively realized) would on the surface, appear to be justified.

Intriguing post!
-Mike



#1100530 - 02/18/16 09:44 AM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: 9ne]  
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We have to keep in mind, whether a songwriter, musician, playwright, movie maker, artist, or whatever, that we exist to entertain. If our work is not entertaining, it will wallow in obscurity for eternity. I often state that my songs contain an element of truth (an event that triggered the songwriting for instance). We are for the most part not writing history books or documentaries (which should be factual, although they often have the facts changed to suit the writer's politics!).

I do think that if someone makes a movie or TV show allegedly about a real event, that it should be stated somewhere that it is a work of historical fiction or something similar so people do not take it factually.


Colin

I try to critique as if you mean business.....

http://colinwardmusic.com/

http://rosewoodcreekband.com/


#1100540 - 02/18/16 10:38 AM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Colin Ward]  
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Dan Sullivan Offline
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Dan Sullivan  Offline
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MI
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.


Write from your heart, not what you think others want to hear.

https://dansullivan2.bandcamp.com

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/dansullivan2
#1100548 - 02/18/16 02:02 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Dan Sullivan]  
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i don't see anything wrong in making a lyric better by any means,be it fact,fiction or some insane craziness.You have to be ready for any type of critique of your work as some people really don't know what was/is going on in your head when you wrote the lyric.Many lyrics can have different interpretations or at least can be interpreted differently while the author never meant for it to mean as such.Words are your paint and you can never run out of paint.Mike

#1100558 - 02/18/16 04:35 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
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Michael Zaneski Offline
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Originally Posted by Ray E. Strode
Um, Well,
No doubt a little fiction is a lot more interesting than fact. The Movie WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE comes to mind. I never have any songs critiqued. No need. But if you do take it for what it's worth. My former Publisher used to say critiques are like *ss *oles, everybody has one!


Hi Ray,

LOL..Yes, everyone has an opinion--well..everyone that at least gets stimulated enough by a piece to have one!

Maybe the only bad critique is the lack of one--cuz then it's easy to assume that a) the piece didn't interest them or b)they didn't like it and didn't want to make waves or hurt feelings.

Loved that movie and the Bacharach/David song too..

Mike


Last edited by Michael Zaneski; 02/18/16 04:35 PM.

Fate doesn't hang on a wrong or right choice
Fortune depends on the tone of your voice

-The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon)
from the song "Songs of Love"
from the album "Casanova" (1996)
#1100563 - 02/18/16 05:40 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: 9ne]  
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Michael Zaneski Offline
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Michael Zaneski  Offline
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Originally Posted by 9ne
Yes, a personal song should be posted as such, but I wonder if you're not meaning "factual" in some of your statements. As for "personal", if someone writes a very poorly written song about a family member that died, it wouldn't be correct to critique. Just as I don't think "great song" would be a proper comment either, as it is what it is.

Again, regarding "personal", this relates to the "three sides to every argument" theory. For example: his, hers, and the truth. Therefore, a critique which suggests changing something for the betterment of the song, (which may enable the writers intention to be more effectively realized) would on the surface, appear to be justified.

Intriguing post!
-Mike




Hi Mike!

Actually I chose to say "personal" cuz I wanted to encompass the realm of subjective things beyond the factual. Many songs try to articulate a songwriter's feelings through the prism of language, and it's all very slippery, and though not factual per se, authors get attached to these subjective things--as perhaps they should as they own them pretty much! But sensing this, it's easy to understand being extra careful when critiquing something we know an author is attached to, either from past experience or because of the actual writing on display or both.

I guess feelings and how one feels about certain things could be called subjective facts? But I chose the easy route and used the word personal to encompass all that.

So to me, the "personal" encompasses both facts and subjective, unverifiable facts. Most songs aren't pure reportage. A songwriter usually brings a particular slant on any theme whether its at root fact or fiction, so in some sense a song can be both fiction and personal, and other songs can appear to be verrry personal--and simply be made up stuff!

And in this latter case, I think an author should most definitely preface the work, letting the potential critiquers know "it's okay to have at it! This looks personal, but it's not, really. Feel free to make suggestions concerning anything!"

A good example is Jim recently wrote a song in the first person about wanting to kill himself, and I wonder how many of us were worrying about Jim at that point? He didn't preface the song, so we were left to wonder, until Wes wrote a critique that allowed for that possibility, and then Jim responded saying that basically his first person singer was just an actor playing a role and not to worry.

I can imagine that Wes might have felt both a little upset and relieved after that. Jim certainly meant no harm, but I imagine now sees that if he had prefaced that, it would have spared Wes and many of us the worry. smile

Joni Mitchell's Blue album is considered a landmark in confessional songwriting. Really personal but tuneful stuff; whereas a Randy Newman might write something that appears confessional, but watch out--he's an untrustworthy narrator! He's wearing a mask, playing a role, and might actually be more open to changing plot elements, major and secondary themes, etc. than he appears to be.

Imagine suggesting your song that is basically a truthful homage to a dead family member have major plot points and elements changed, LOL! And yet..imagine this: it's a really well written a song. The deceased comes alive in the listeners mind. The song goes viral. HBO wants to get Aaron Sorkin to write a 5 episode miniseries. You sign and are getting two-hundred grand. You tune in.,,WTF? Who is this character? She's a woman now? With no living dad but with two moms? Whoops..shoulda read the fine print..LOL..anyway, modern life sometimes forces us to decide what is important to us (..money or the truth?). Perhaps "what is important" is a question we should be pursuing anyway.

Mike

Last edited by Michael Zaneski; 02/18/16 07:18 PM.

Fate doesn't hang on a wrong or right choice
Fortune depends on the tone of your voice

-The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon)
from the song "Songs of Love"
from the album "Casanova" (1996)
#1100581 - 02/18/16 08:58 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Michael Zaneski]  
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9ne Online content
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9ne  Online Content
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Enjoyed your post!

How did that joke go? "Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?" Answer: "Of course!" "Would you sleep with me for $20.00?" Of course not; what do you think I am?"
"I've established what you are, now we're negotiating price...."

The recognition inherent in having your song recorded is a credible reason why many writers would sell their babies.(songs) For me, personally, validation would be the reward. (with the monetary reason secondary) I think of songwriting as an art but I don't think of songs as art. (a personal opinion; they very well may be) However, I do feel certain songs have more value than other recognized forms of art. For example, I don't recall hearing of the Mona Lisa saving someone's life, yet many times I've read interviews where an artist tells of a fan being saved by their song....and that's important.

#1100652 - 02/19/16 05:25 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Colin Ward]  
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Michael Zaneski Offline
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Originally Posted by Colin Ward
We have to keep in mind, whether a songwriter, musician, playwright, movie maker, artist, or whatever, that we exist to entertain. If our work is not entertaining, it will wallow in obscurity for eternity. I often state that my songs contain an element of truth (an event that triggered the songwriting for instance). We are for the most part not writing history books or documentaries (which should be factual, although they often have the facts changed to suit the writer's politics!).

I do think that if someone makes a movie or TV show allegedly about a real event, that it should be stated somewhere that it is a work of historical fiction or something similar so people do not take it factually.


Hi Colin,

I agree wholeheartedly with everything you say. I would add that even when we think we are doing something else, we are probably trying to entertain more than we realize.

My mom would tell several dozens of stories over the years. Some amazing stuff. She had been a nun, a movie actress, housewife, a gambler, a mother, a protester, and a witness of miracles--one of which I witnessed too, back in '68. Let me tell you: she had stories. And in spite of knowing that she believed to be sticking to the facts and trying to sound like she was giving pure reportage, my sister and I would notice that in her telling of these various stories over the years, certain elements of the stories would be dropped, others amped up, and in some instances, completely new subplots brought in with new characters, etc.

Challenging her as to the veracity of these stories was pointless--she was doing what any good entertainer does--reworking her stories so they "sang better" pretty much, most of the time keeping core truths intact, while more peripheral elements were more easily bandied about. I thought ahead and started digitally videotaping her a few years before her eventual death and have these memories in solid form to treasure forever, all spoken from a hospital bed that her medical insurance provided her to have at home.

The "urge to please" is a strong force in our natures. It's as if modern storytellers are finally simply owning this fact.

Mike

Last edited by Michael Zaneski; 02/19/16 05:41 PM.

Fate doesn't hang on a wrong or right choice
Fortune depends on the tone of your voice

-The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon)
from the song "Songs of Love"
from the album "Casanova" (1996)
#1100653 - 02/19/16 05:35 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Dan Sullivan]  
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Michael Zaneski Offline
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Originally Posted by Dan Sullivan
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.


Exactly.

When I write a song that mixes the two, however, I still feel an old school obligation to write a preface stating what is fact and what is not--especially if my presentation seems personal or confessional. Mainly cuz I want critiques, and I know that if it looks too personal it will keep many a critiquer from talking.

Mike

Last edited by Michael Zaneski; 02/19/16 05:38 PM.

Fate doesn't hang on a wrong or right choice
Fortune depends on the tone of your voice

-The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon)
from the song "Songs of Love"
from the album "Casanova" (1996)
#1100655 - 02/19/16 06:24 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Michael Zaneski]  
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Calvin Offline
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just wanted to say I'm enjoying this thread.

Calvin


http://www.soundclick.com/bands/0/calvinstewart

#1100665 - 02/19/16 07:55 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Calvin]  
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Ray E. Strode Online content
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Ray E. Strode  Online Content
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Humm,
Has anyone seen the Movie Walter Mitty?


Ray E. Strode
#1100723 - 02/20/16 08:23 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Michael LeBlanc]  
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Michael Zaneski Offline
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Originally Posted by Michael LeBlanc
i don't see anything wrong in making a lyric better by any means,be it fact,fiction or some insane craziness.You have to be ready for any type of critique of your work as some people really don't know what was/is going on in your head when you wrote the lyric.Many lyrics can have different interpretations or at least can be interpreted differently while the author never meant for it to mean as such.Words are your paint and you can never run out of paint.Mike


Hi Mike,

I don't know if I could give as deep a critique to a song where the writer is obviously "giving it all away" or wearing heart on sleeve, and doing it in a way that didn't totally suck, lol.

Kristofferson advised Joni Mitchell to keep something of herself. And yet, to me, the bravest thing a writer can do is appear naked and be vulnerable and put that out there. There's layers upon layers of masks that we wear, just to get through our day. And as writers, sometimes the cleansing thing is to transcend those layers..Other times, other styles of writing..perhaps not. Depends who we are and where we're at, I think.

But I just know that I tend to critique personal/confession works much more discreetly, as my immediate thoughts are that this was a brave write, and I only try to help make what I perceive to be their intention to shine better.

Yes, words can be like paint and up to the listener to interpret. But we can also write in a way that tries to narrow that down. There's nothing wrong with attempting to get every reader to feel exactly what you felt, or follow a story in a specific way--not to suggest that you were suggesting otherwise.

The main thing I'm learning from this thread is folks are much more open to amping up personal songs with made up bits. That there's no clear cut line drawn in the sand, except for when songs are prefaced as such. It's no wonder most are so accepting of the convoluted worlds of Aquarius and Manhattan and so many other shows that are "history with an asterisk."

Jim Croce wrote "I Got A Name." That song reminds me that there are some things that can't ever be taken from us. Like our personal histories. Our stories. Everything we write starts from there in some way or other.

Mike

Last edited by Michael Zaneski; 02/20/16 08:24 PM.

Fate doesn't hang on a wrong or right choice
Fortune depends on the tone of your voice

-The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon)
from the song "Songs of Love"
from the album "Casanova" (1996)
#1100845 - 02/22/16 05:48 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: 9ne]  
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Originally Posted by 9ne
Enjoyed your post!

How did that joke go? "Would you sleep with me for a million dollars?" Answer: "Of course!" "Would you sleep with me for $20.00?" Of course not; what do you think I am?"
"I've established what you are, now we're negotiating price...."

The recognition inherent in having your song recorded is a credible reason why many writers would sell their babies.(songs) For me, personally, validation would be the reward. (with the monetary reason secondary) I think of songwriting as an art but I don't think of songs as art. (a personal opinion; they very well may be) However, I do feel certain songs have more value than other recognized forms of art. For example, I don't recall hearing of the Mona Lisa saving someone's life, yet many times I've read interviews where an artist tells of a fan being saved by their song....and that's important.


Hi Mike,

LOL..never heard that one (million dollar proposition)--that's priceless!

The idea of the Mona Lisa saving someone's life is indeed rather absurd..and funny..how could it happen? Maybe you're running from a spy at the Lourve and you yell back at him, as he approaches the famous painting, "I never remembered Mona Lisa having a snagle tooth!" The spy can't help but stop momentarily and regain his focus enough to look for said snagle tooth. Doh! It gave you enough time to duck down a corridor leading to the busy thoroughfare outside. Saved by the Mona Lisa!

There's all kinds of compromising going on before these external one's that may happen if/when our song goes viral. The most important being how much of our true selves do we reveal in this song? Of course, rarely do we voice this consciously--yet there's always some internal bartering going on, in the writing.

Most songs seem to be in between the realms of pure personal fact and of a totally fictive universe. We are kind of are forced to write what we know, through all of it, though.

John Luis Borges wrote a short fictive work ("Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote," considered a classic and precursor of "meta-fiction") about a guy who tries to do everything it takes so that he can come to the point where he can write "Don Quixote" --tries to become Cervantes, and at a particular time in Cervantes' life!

Is it so different from how, when we desire to emulate one of our musical heros, we play a bunch of their records, first? I think our voices boxes actually change shape, just a little, when we do this.

But ultimately Borge's story and our own emulations show us the impossibility of becoming "other" though we can occasionally come close for a moment or two in time. And it can be a cleansing experience and help us re-define who we are.

We know, with shows like Aquarius and Manhattan that the showrunners have set out to give us an entertaining ride--and we also trust that the important plot elements won't change. Manson will get caught, in the end, if the show runs long enough. A-bombs will fall over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, if Manhattan gets a season three. Bottom line--these are not parallel universes like Philip K Dick's "The Man In the High Castle." These stories exist in our world. Just a more entertaining version of it, where all outcomes are written in stone, but much of what takes place in between can be different.

Same with what we choose to put in songs, now. The two have evolved on parallel lines. There was a point in the early sixties where folk music held historical accuracy as an ideal, even in personal songs--representing ourselves as accurately as possible seemed an ideal. There's little different from Phil Ochs and early Leonard Cohen in this regard--Ochs converted topical news stories while Cohen converted his own life experience--but both were creating some kind of representational art form that help up a mirror to the world and to self.

As a listener and critic of others' music, I still like to feel I'm getting something "true" from the work, even when it appears to be fiction, and with works that appear personal, even more so--though I am beginning to see how as long as the "gist" remains true, the actual facts don't matter as much now. Bending them may actually serve the gist.

Mike

Last edited by Michael Zaneski; 02/22/16 10:08 PM.

Fate doesn't hang on a wrong or right choice
Fortune depends on the tone of your voice

-The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon)
from the song "Songs of Love"
from the album "Casanova" (1996)
#1103707 - 03/31/16 01:16 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Michael Zaneski]  
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Dave Rice Offline
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Forgive me, Michael: ...for taking so long to notice that you have posted another gem of a topic for us to read and absorb. If I had to pick a "one-line" reply... it would be Dan Sullivan's.

Critiques are a topic unto themselves. Critique Seekers and Critiquers are both attempting to prove themselves as writers and as those who provide critiques. It usually ends up with the songwriter slinking away into the sunset, tail between legs vowing to never ask for a critique again. All of us are capable of writing an honest, soul piercing critique but to do it in a manner where the psyche of the writer is left, in-tact... is a more difficult challenge.

Most of us are not "wired" to receive a scathing summation of our work. Probably, for that reason... I don't seek them... and I don't offer them. Instead, I try to say something positive about a song or melody I've heard... or say nothing at all.

It is so difficult to tell a story in a song... and get the entire message or intent across to the listener... due to the time allotted. (Time allotment usually varies with the status of the writer... but for most of us, it's somewhere between three and four minutes, max.) Knowing that the melody is normally more important than the words really throws a kink into the time available factor.

My "manifesto" on songwriting is simply to "live by the sword-like pen" and to be prepared to die by that same instrument. Damn the torpedoes... full steam ahead. In the end, the only thing that matters is whether the song withstands the test of time or makes the writer (or artist) a ton of money.

...and so, having shared his limited wisdom, Old Rice slunk westwardly, his tail between his feeble legs.

Thanks for bringing this up, Mr. Talent! ----Dave

#1103916 - 04/02/16 10:12 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Michael Zaneski]  
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MidniteBob Online content
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Raleigh, ya'll
Originally Posted by Michael Zaneski
Originally Posted by Dan Sullivan
Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.


Exactly.

When I write a song that mixes the two, however, I still feel an old school obligation to write a preface stating what is fact and what is not--especially if my presentation seems personal or confessional. Mainly cuz I want critiques, and I know that if it looks too personal it will keep many a critiquer from talking.

Mike


I dunno, Mike. I'm with Dan 100% on this one. If I were to ask for a critique, I personally,wouldn't want to specify which parts were completely true. I would want the song to stand or fall on its own merits.

Much like Colin, for me there's almost always an "element" of truth in my writing, even if it was just a road sign that inspired a title. When gigging, I might introduce a song as 95% percent true" and leave it at that. But I don't really do introspective much and really fall more into Mr. Newman's Untrustworthy Narrator style.

Ah, what the heck. At the risk of boring folks to tears, I'll throw in a lyric that is 90% true.

I'll follow the lyric with the "facts", and let ya'll decide if knowing the facts in advance would help or hinder the critiquer?

The song is called "Goose Creek"...There is no chorus. Just 6 verses with a jam" in between every other verse:

The telephone rang the other night,
must've been about eight o'clock.
I was sittin' home, nothin' goin' on
and it felt like time had stopped.
Through the magic of the copper
came an old familiar voice.
He said change your shirt, Hoss, put on some shoes
I'm afraid you have no choice.

You remember Uncle Charlie?
Well he finally passed away.
They sealed his ashes in a mason jar
and they shipped him here today.
Se we're calling every one he knew
and according to his will.
We're gonna take him down for one last round
at the Goose Creek Bar and Grill.

JAM A BIT

The people started gatherin'.
A couple dozen, maybe more.
Then the whiskey started flowin'
and they were stacked up out the door.
Every guy that he'd owed money
and every gal he'd ever kissed
were gonna have one on Ol' Charlie
it was a party not to miss.
They lined up at the jukebox
and music filled the place.
We hit the floor with nothing more
than a total lack of grace.
It was Maybeline and Blue Suede Shoes
and the Whiskey River stomp[.
Sally tipped a bottle and Timmy tipped a table
when it turned into a romp.

JAM A BIT MORE

At three a,m, the barmaid
put Charlie on the shelf.
She slipped out back and toss us the keys
sayin' lock up for yourselves.
And we'd have done exactly that
but we could not find the door.
There were way too many pilgrims
who were passed out on the floor.
Sometime the next morning
I know I finally made it home.
As far as I remember
they still were goin' strong.
So if you missed Charlie's party
and wanna say good-bye to him
you can find him down on a Goose Creek shelf
sittin' tween Jack and Jim.

A LITTE MORE JAMMING

Yeah if you missed Charlie's party
and wanna say good-bye to him
you can find him down on a Goose Creek shelf
sittin' tween Jack and Jim
Every night
Sittin' tween Jack and Jim.

FICTION:

It wasn't my Uncle Charlie. It was my brother Jim.
He wasn't cremated, so he's not still on the shelf.
The bar was called The Third Street Saloon.

FACT: Pretty much everything else. My brother was a poet, of some renown. One of his best known, and certainly one of his shortest, poems was:

When I die, I want a jukebox for my tombstone
And to give everyone a roll of quarters.

We did our best to accommodate his wishes:-)...I think I made it home around 5:00 a.m...:-)

Now, would knowing the facts help or hinder the critquer???

And, in case you're curious, here's a link to the actual song:

http://www.soundclick.com/player/single_player.cfm?songid=9385046&q=hi&newref=1

Midnite



Satchel was right. Something is gaining on me.

The Shoebox & Dinner at Eight trailers available at:

http://www.twometer.com/Two_Meter_Studios/HOME.html
#1103918 - 04/02/16 10:46 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Dave Rice]  
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Michael Zaneski Offline
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Originally Posted by Dave Rice
Forgive me, Michael: ...for taking so long to notice that you have posted another gem of a topic for us to read and absorb. If I had to pick a "one-line" reply... it would be Dan Sullivan's.

Critiques are a topic unto themselves. Critique Seekers and Critiquers are both attempting to prove themselves as writers and as those who provide critiques. It usually ends up with the songwriter slinking away into the sunset, tail between legs vowing to never ask for a critique again. All of us are capable of writing an honest, soul piercing critique but to do it in a manner where the psyche of the writer is left, in-tact... is a more difficult challenge.

Most of us are not "wired" to receive a scathing summation of our work. Probably, for that reason... I don't seek them... and I don't offer them. Instead, I try to say something positive about a song or melody I've heard... or say nothing at all.

It is so difficult to tell a story in a song... and get the entire message or intent across to the listener... due to the time allotted. (Time allotment usually varies with the status of the writer... but for most of us, it's somewhere between three and four minutes, max.) Knowing that the melody is normally more important than the words really throws a kink into the time available factor.

My "manifesto" on songwriting is simply to "live by the sword-like pen" and to be prepared to die by that same instrument. Damn the torpedoes... full steam ahead. In the end, the only thing that matters is whether the song withstands the test of time or makes the writer (or artist) a ton of money.

...and so, having shared his limited wisdom, Old Rice slunk westwardly, his tail between his feeble legs.

Thanks for bringing this up, Mr. Talent! ----Dave


Hi Dave,

I think we're on the same page as far as applying the Golden Rule to critiquing.

I don't mind a scathing critique unless it's from someone I don't know well and so can't trust, and therefore have to wonder if there's an ulterior motive. That and scathing critiques that makes no effort to at least find something good to say, and in a non-harsh way--otherwise, I'm back to wondering if there is an ulterior motive..

Chris Hardwick has a nice formula, and that's to cancel out critiques that are overwhelmingly positive with the ones that are overwhelmingly negative, and then live with the ones in that middle 50%, because there is probably less shenanigans going on when folks have both good and bad to say.

EDIT: I should add that Hardwick was talking mostly about online tweets, mostly from folks with whom he'd had little prior contact.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Dave. smile

Mike

Last edited by Michael Zaneski; 04/03/16 05:13 PM.

Fate doesn't hang on a wrong or right choice
Fortune depends on the tone of your voice

-The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon)
from the song "Songs of Love"
from the album "Casanova" (1996)
#1103921 - 04/03/16 12:04 AM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: MidniteBob]  
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Michael Zaneski Offline
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Hi Midnite,

Your lyric is a real treat (I'll try to give the song a listen later) and no, I wouldn't think knowing what parts are true and what parts aren't would hinder me, or anyone for that matter, in wanting (or not wanting) to critique this particular lyric. It's a song about a wake, certainly, but the tone tells me that it's okay for me to critique this without reservation.

I think the problem here is we are talking too generally, now. Lighthearted songs like yours here would never worry a potential critiquer that he/she might upset a writer with their honest critique.

But Midnite, what if a someone had a problem with some of the "true" things in your song (even though they didn't know what was true and what was made up) and suggested you re-write those parts to make them stronger? Would you not feel a twinge that was you saying to yourself "but..but..that's what happened?" I think this is a very human response to have, no?

I guess what I'm getting at is--as much as we like the idea that we shouldn't let the truth get in the way of a good song, and that might be the ideal--any song that has true and personal parts that are presented in a serious way will probably not enjoy a critique suggesting that these true parts be changed in favor of fictitious ones.

The material that folks have the hardest time letting go of is this serious, personal stuff..and maybe for good reason? Songs that seem overtly autobiographical are shouting "please don't critique the story cuz it's my story" --critique the presentation, sure, but not what happens in the story please."

And so songs that are mostly autobiographical (and serious in tone) but hedge a little..these can be problematic for a critiquer. Hence my personal decision to preface such songs.

Sometimes we write from an autobiographical place, and unlike Peterman, we want our story to remain our story. And so perhaps a listener needs to know to critique (in these situations) the presentation and NOT the personal facts? And conversely, if things look personal but are not--a listener would certainly be aided into opening up, given this information.

That's why I thought it interesting that what Larry David conceived of as a joke (in Seinfeld)--that Peterman would feel good about using Kramer's stories in his autobiography--this now seems prescient in hindsight.

My main thesis here was that serialized drama on television seems influenced by Peterman in how writers like Aaron Sorkin have no problem mixing historical fact with fiction (Manhattan), and this is a relatively new thing in serialized television, and I learned from this thread that what holds for television writing does not hold for songwriting. This because of observations by Dan, Colin, and others.

That I choose to preface certain songs (that look serious and personal but aren't) is done out of consideration to loosen up a listener into feeling free to say whatever is on their minds. Having done thousands of critiques and received as many, I've seen quite a few writers hurt because personal stuff was critiqued like fiction. In fact, the day after I started this thread, it happened here, and the writer was visibly very upset. A really good writer, too. And I've also seen many critiquers shy away from giving critiques on songs that look, on the outside, to be serious, personal, and factual.

And so, to be less general, I would say that sometimes a preface might be a considerate thing to write. Especially among friends, here, at JPF. Will a song be listened to less on it's own merits, because of a preface? Well, I suppose if one's preface was "instructing" the listener as to what the song was about..certainly the song should do that on its own..but there's so many other reasons to preface a song. Especially a personal looking song that is serious in tone, and especially if the song only looks like that but isn't! Because human nature says that if I write a song about how I loved my dog and the dog died, nobody's gonna say, "I think it would work if you made it a cat"--even though that might be the case. Even if it was pure fiction, on the writers part, too--unless that last bit of info was prefaced.

Thanks for the visit and the insights and wonderful lyric, Midnite. smile

Mike

Last edited by Michael Zaneski; 04/03/16 12:58 AM.

Fate doesn't hang on a wrong or right choice
Fortune depends on the tone of your voice

-The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon)
from the song "Songs of Love"
from the album "Casanova" (1996)
#1104228 - 04/06/16 11:02 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Michael Zaneski]  
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"A good example is Jim recently wrote a song in the first person about wanting to kill himself, and I wonder how many of us were worrying about Jim at that point? He didn't preface the song, so we were left to wonder, until Wes wrote a critique that allowed for that possibility, and then Jim responded saying that basically his first person singer was just an actor playing a role and not to worry."

Lyrics are rolling through my brain almost constantly now. I write one, forget it almost immediately and crank out another. I've gone through thousands and thousands of songs in the last 20 years... Jim

Last edited by Jim Colyer; 04/06/16 11:04 PM.
#1106139 - 04/30/16 10:59 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Michael Zaneski]  
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MidniteBob Online content
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Raleigh, ya'll
Hey Mike,

I've been meaning to answer back for a while now but keep getting side-tracked....Actually, I tried once before, but I have a glitchy laptop....And by "glitchy", I mean that my wife spilt juice from her e-cig on it and the keyboard got fried. So I type with an old keyboard plugged into a USB port, and although the "letters" on the keyboard are in English, all of the "symbols" are in French...Keeps things interesting:-)

But enough about me and my woes....

This thread of yours is another thoughtfully contemplative contemplation, and I want to make sure that I give it its proper due.

I'm working on it now...

Will get back to ya's....

Midnite


Satchel was right. Something is gaining on me.

The Shoebox & Dinner at Eight trailers available at:

http://www.twometer.com/Two_Meter_Studios/HOME.html
#1106162 - 05/01/16 04:21 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: MidniteBob]  
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Michael Zaneski Offline
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Originally Posted by MidniteBob
Hey Mike,

I've been meaning to answer back for a while now but keep getting side-tracked....Actually, I tried once before, but I have a glitchy laptop....And by "glitchy", I mean that my wife spilt juice from her e-cig on it and the keyboard got fried. So I type with an old keyboard plugged into a USB port, and although the "letters" on the keyboard are in English, all of the "symbols" are in French...Keeps things interesting:-)

But enough about me and my woes....

This thread of yours is another thoughtfully contemplative contemplation, and I want to make sure that I give it its proper due.

I'm working on it now...

Will get back to ya's....

Midnite


Awww..I figured you just "conceded" to all my points, LOL..

No but seriously, keep in mind, as to the "how to critique" aspect, that I'm talking about the practical aspects of critiquing among friends here, and not so much a "primer" on how to give and receive critiques from say, an Atlantic Monthly..those be apples and oranges..

I look forward to your thoughts, Midnite!

Mike


Fate doesn't hang on a wrong or right choice
Fortune depends on the tone of your voice

-The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon)
from the song "Songs of Love"
from the album "Casanova" (1996)
#1106197 - 05/01/16 10:49 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Michael Zaneski]  
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MidniteBob Online content
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Raleigh, ya'll
Hey Mike,

It only looks like I'm rambling:-)

Feel free to scroll down to "Experience Two"...:-)

I have to preface my response with TWO experiences from my own song-writing life. I'll reigning myself in by keeping it to only TWO, but for the sake of this thread, I'll try:-)

Experience ONE:

In 1,999, BEFORE I knew much about the internet, I had just recently gotten back into songwriting after a coupla decades, and moved from Chicago to Washington DC. At an open-mic, I hooked up with a recent refugee from Philadelphia...His name was, and continues to be, Andy.

Neither of us had any desire to be performers. All we wanted to do was write songs that someone else might want to sing, so we two recent refugees became songwriting partners. Neither of us lived in a house that was conducive for song-writing privateness. So, for over a year, every Sunday, we'd hook up around noon and hit a local sidewalk with a park bench and just jam for hours while getting to know each other, both personally AND musically, learning about our own history with music and trying to play songs that we both knew....We did this all in “public”, and developed a bit of a reputation around town.

Other musicians learned that they were free to drop in and jam along....Sundays always ended up on the front porch of the house that Andy and 3 other room-mates were sharing...Neighbors would bring us crackers and cheese and Corona's. They'd make requests and sing along as we “non-performers” would do our best to try not to butcher one of the requests. One night, a neighbor had a friend visiting who played a didgeridoo...Probably the only time that Margaritaville has ever been played with a dulcimer, a banjo and a “didge”...:-)....But Sundays were simply about getting to know each other, not performing.

That ramble was just my way of explaining that while Sundays became unexpectedly special, it was Tuesday evenings that we dedicated, completely, to songwriting...Just Andy and me. Every Tuesday when we got off work, we'd meet on the front porch of the house he shared with three others, and eventually take it to the dingy basement sometime around midnight, and try to keep our voices down because folks needed to sleep before going to their day-jobs....And YES! Andy and I also had day-jobs!!! But Tuesdays were about The Muse! ….I seldom drove home and slept in my own bed on Tuesday nights, because our Tuesdays wouldn't end until at least 3:00 a.m. and I would crash on his couch(with a clean set of clothes and a toothbrush already packed)....

And yes, Mike I can hear you asking, “Midnite, you will eventually get to the point here, right?....:-))))

I was Blessed to have been able to learn these lessons face to face with Andy, my two-year songwriting partner, when it comes to “critiquing”, whether in person or on-line with folks you may not know.

One: The first question you need to ask, is “How honest do you want me to be?”....Which, I hope, addresses one of your contemplations, Mike....That is, do you want to share this song, AS IS, because you NEEDED to write it and know that at least one person read or heard it?

In which case, the only appropriate response is: Yes, I heard it. Thanks for sharing it with me....I THINK DAVE RICE understands this perfectly!!!!.....OR...Do you, the writer, want to make this song the best that it can be so that a wider audience may be able to relate to it?

Two: And this is important: You as the critiquer, and the songwriter, NEED to be able to establish “Safe Words”!!!!...What's a “Safe word”...Actually, it's more of a Safe-Phrase....These phrases aren't related to the general “Vibe” of a song. They are restricted to individual phrases...

Safe-phrase one: Are you married to that line?
Safe-phrase two: Naw, I think you can do better on this line.
Safe-phrase three: You are soooo close! Wanna work it out together, or do you wanna table it and come back with it later?

Safe-phrase four: You nailed it! You don't need me, or anyone else to help you with this!!! If you discover that there might be a weak point that you never noticed before, let me know, and I'll do what I can to help.

Experience TWO:

I fear, Mike, that this one will take a bit to explain, but is vital to understand why I'm taking the time to respond to your contenplations about critiquing, especially when it comes to “personal” songs.

Fast-forward from my face-to-face Andy songwriting experience...

Andy had moved back to Philly....And yes, we're still in touch!

2003....I was finally learning the wonders of dial-up internet!!!!!...And missing Andy, went online and found a website, actually a “Yahoo Group, called “writingsongs”(I THINK that's the name of it, but can Google and confirm if necessary:-)).....JPF was way down the list when I “Yahoo'd” “songwriters”.

So I joined “writingsongs”....And for reasons that The Purple One would understand, The first couple of days after I had joined, among the hundreds of “threads” and “critiques”, there were a “handful” of folks who had also recently joined, and we all made a “connection” and were responding and responding and responding to each other in a flurry!!!!!...PLEASE KNOW THAT I WAS AN INTERNET NOVICE AT THAT POINT!

But I had enough “awareness” to realize that us “handful” were sort of “crashing the board”, and perhaps, inadvertently, being impolite to the others there.

So I reached out and sent an e-mail to one of the Moderators...His name was, and still is:-) Kel. He lives in New Zealand. I asked Kel that rather than crashing writingsongs, all willy-nilly like, was there any way to gather the “handful” together at a specific time each week?

Kel explained that my “concept” was good, but that it would be disruptive to the “writingsongs” Site. He then suggested, and guided me through, about how to set up my own “Yahoo Group” and send out invitations for the “Handful” to join if they wanted to.

So I did, without a clue of what I was doing....I sent out 8 invitations...8 people joined...It took a week of sending invitations, accepting them, and trying to work out the details, but we all agreed that we would meet every Tuesday, from 6:00 til 9:00. Eastern Standard Time.....The “Yahoo Group” decided that we should call our group The Loose Musers....

Our initial agreement of “meeting up” on Tuesdays from 6:00 til 9:00 got blown from high-water and back! The “Tuesday” part was easy...The 6:00 to 9:00 was easy....Except for the fact that folks would start showing up a 4:00(because one member didn't have his own computer and had to use the library's and they closed at 5:00. Another Muser lived in Seattle and couldn't get to a computer until he got home from work...etc...One of us a bartender in Florida who couldn't join us until closing time. She'd get home and log-on, and became our official “record keeper”, informing us of how many posts had been generated on each Tuesday.


Our record number of posts on an Tuesday was 237....Yes, two hundred and thirty seven posts, among eight internet strangers.....And not a single one caused any unpleasantness. Don't get me wrong, we could be ruthlessly, brutally honest in our critiques. But we had our “safe phrases”, which I had learned with Andy, and understood why we were all were Musers.

Hang in there, I'm in the home-stretch now....And everything I've written here, has just been the background for a very specific song, and its “Musers” critiquing history, and how Mike's contemplations brought all of this back to mind, because it was an extremely “personal” song...I'll post the lyric at the end of this, just for reference...But I'll sum up the reason why Billy, the Muser, from Ohio, had written the “Traditional Country” sounding tear-jerker song...The title is “The Shoebox”.

Billy had a way with words, but no musical abilities at all. Billy had a neighbor whose son , Shane, died at 13 of leukemia...While he was in the hospital in Ohio, he became an on-line friend of Meghan and Meghan's mother, who lived in Florida...Meghan was 3...Meghan never made it to 4...Shane passed in September of 2002. Meghan passed in February of 2003, the same month I formed the Loose-Muse and Billy had been the first to accept my initial invitation.

….Ok, so here I'm gonna cut & paste and respond to a portion of Mike's comments. I will try to highlight his words.

But Midnite, what if a someone had a problem with some of the "true" things in your song (even though they didn't know what was true and what was made up) and suggested you re-write those parts to make them stronger? Would you not feel a twinge that was you saying to yourself "but..but..that's what happened?" I think this is a very human response to have, no?

“but..but..that's what happened!”.....Yes, Mike, those were Billy's exact words as we tried to gently guide him into how to make his wonderful story, a little bit better, as far as being a “song” goes.

Billy borrowed the title, and basic story, from something he'd read on-line about a “Shoebox” and how a parent had lost a child...He then retold it from the perspective of Meghan's father...But Billy had a few too many, umm...”Exact” details, as far as including them in a song goes. The primary detail, that dind't quite work, was a line that went: But I lost her, to Leukemia. .

Us Musers suggested that “leukemia” was a tad too specific....And also narrowed down the next line rhyme.

“but..but..that's what happened!”....Picture Yosemite Sam throwing a hissy-fit:-))))


I guess what I'm getting at is--as much as we like the idea that we shouldn't let the truth get in the way of a good song, and that might be the ideal--any song that has true and personal parts that are presented in a serious way will probably not enjoy a critique suggesting that these true parts be changed in favor of fictitious ones. 


I think we're on the same page here:-)....The “tone” of “Goose Creek” allows for some leeway as far as “Just the facts, ma'am” goes....But “The Shoebox” has a totally different tone. And while it would be extremely misdirected advice to try to change the cause of Meghan's death, it was also not necessary to spell it out so “literally”. As a song, sometimes “literal” isn't quite the best choice. Sometimes, changing a word can make a song more “universal”...”The Shoebox” is about a parent's loss...How she died was not as necessary to get across as that she died.


The material that folks have the hardest time letting go of is this serious, personal stuff..and maybe for good reason? Songs that seem overtly autobiographical are shouting "please don't critique the story cuz it's my story" --critique the presentation, sure, but not what happens in the story please." 

Fair enough...But then, as a critiquer, and as a writer, we need to establish why we're putting a song “out there”...

Because us Musers had established an on-line community, we knew that Billy's goal was to make this song the best that it could be, and not just something that he had to write to ease his own heart, we knew that he truly wanted our input...And THAT was vitally important to both Billy and the Muser critiquers to establish!


And so songs that are mostly autobiographical (and serious in tone) but hedge a little..these can be problematic for a critiquer. Hence my personal decision to preface such songs.


I will end my rambles now, and agree and concede your point:-)))))

It must be very “problematic”....Which is one reason why I don't offer critiques unless I know in advance what the intentions are.

Here is a link that has the "finished" lyrics of the song, "The Shoebox", that Alan Hamilton, the Muser from Seattle, eventually included on his first CD.

Lower in the article, there is another link to an article about "The story behind the song"....Which was written by Billy Bruce, the Muser from Ohio:-)

There's no obligation to follow that link, EXCEPT, for the purposes of Mike's initial contemplations as a critequer. But if you DO click on Billy's link, he refers to someone named "KJack"....And yeap, that would be me.... This Witness Protection Program can be a b!tch at times

Thanks, Mike, for giving me cause to pause, AGAIN!...Hope I didn't go all Atlantic Monthly on ya:-)

Midnite

Here's the link..P.S:"leukemia" wasn't the only word/line we Musers suggested that needed an "edit" or two:-)...:

http://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1078861-The-Shoebox-Poem-Song-Lyric



Satchel was right. Something is gaining on me.

The Shoebox & Dinner at Eight trailers available at:

http://www.twometer.com/Two_Meter_Studios/HOME.html
#1106202 - 05/02/16 12:08 AM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: MidniteBob]  
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Raleigh, ya'll
P.S....

A line from the Billy Bruce link that, I hope, directly relates to Mike's contemplations:

"...What isn’t listed on the CD jacket is the way a bunch of strangers on a writing site pitched in to help get the lyric just right and eventually turn it into a song..."

Midnite



Satchel was right. Something is gaining on me.

The Shoebox & Dinner at Eight trailers available at:

http://www.twometer.com/Two_Meter_Studios/HOME.html
#1106227 - 05/02/16 04:25 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: MidniteBob]  
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Hi Midnite,

Those are some wonderful experiences you've shared. I'll blow some dust off that Yahoo group when I get a chance, for sure.

I understand the safe words and their importance. I have a similar one that evolved from William Faulkner's advice to "kill your darlings" when you find a word, line, phrase, or idea has personal value that won't be valued similarly by others. I am always asking myself "is that a darling?"

I find it interesting that Billy was tied to "facts" even though it wasn't his story at all. Unlike Billy's case, it's these personal "darlings" that become difficult for folks to "let go" of, for better and for worse, and you totally nailed it when you said

then, as a critiquer, and as a writer, we need to establish why we're putting a song “out there”...

..but I would add to that a couple things..

First..it's totally okay and cool to put something personal, purgative, cathartic, egocentric, or otherwise "hands-offish"--out into the world!

Moreover, there can be potentially as great a value to these things as those things that go through the chopping block. If Picasso took advice he would have been a second rate Van Gogh, Phillip Glass a second hand Schoenberg.

If there is any truth to "from the personal to the universal" then there's some truth to what I'm saying.

But then critiquing the presentation becomes so much more important. How to put these elements (that we can't let go of), together in a way so they can really reach people? Was mentioning leukemia important? No..not unless we are writing journalistic songs ala Phil Ochs, which is a difficult road. Phil wanted two contradictory things--to write "true folk music" AND to become popular, and it killed him.

My second point is that..deciding a base line of what is good writing and what is not..this is a very slippery thing, too..I won't go so far as to say "it's totally subjective" because in most cases, bad writing is clearly bad writing..

But there's a grey area where, please indulge my following thought experiment..if we did a scientific experiment with a control group A, and groups B, C, D, and E..and gave them all the same lyric to critique, I imagine there would be significant variations among the different groups as to what parts were good and what were not. This would be especially true with vague, allusive stuff like much of early Dylan. Like sequestered juries, it would also depend on the opinions of the Alpha personalities within these groups--the folks that "took charge" whether intentionally or not..

As an "asterisk" I'll add--there's also the "artist" factor..sure, we're not all Stravinsky writing The Rite of Spring knowing that nobody's gonna "get it," but I often back off from critiquing something that is so "different" and perhaps innovative, lyrically, that I can't truly digest it. I think to myself, "well..that was brave!" --but find I come back to these things again and again, cuz there's something there. If I was to knee-jerk critique such things, they'd be mostly negative comments, for sure, since I had little "prior base line" from which to understand them..

So..you know..much of what we are talking about is wobbly and hard to pin down, but we're mostly on the same page, and I enjoyed and learned from your stories, and I too can ramble a bit..and I think you get my gist.. smile

Mike

Last edited by Michael Zaneski; 05/02/16 08:00 PM.

Fate doesn't hang on a wrong or right choice
Fortune depends on the tone of your voice

-The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon)
from the song "Songs of Love"
from the album "Casanova" (1996)
#1106245 - 05/02/16 09:50 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Michael Zaneski]  
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MidniteBob Online content
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MidniteBob  Online Content
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Raleigh, ya'll
Originally Posted by Michael Zaneski
Hi Midnite,

...it's these personal "darlings" that become difficult for folks to "let go" of, for better and for worse, and you totally nailed it when you said

then, as a critiquer, and as a writer, we need to establish why we're putting a song “out there”...
...

Mike


Hey Mike,

You took my 137 page rambling response to your initial contemplation in starting this thread, and singled out the one sentence that sums up all of my ramblings!

Well done, sir!!!!

Carry on:-)

Midnite


Satchel was right. Something is gaining on me.

The Shoebox & Dinner at Eight trailers available at:

http://www.twometer.com/Two_Meter_Studios/HOME.html
#1106248 - 05/02/16 11:25 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: MidniteBob]  
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John Voorpostel Offline
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John Voorpostel  Offline
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I'm easy to critique then because I make almost everything up smile


"As a critiquer, and as a writer, we need to establish why we're putting a song “out there”.."

absolutely...but implied when you post a lyric here is that you want suggestions to improve what you write.


I've been hanging out at The Muse a bit lately because Jody's passing the torch, and though it is a smaller community, I think folks there are not all all shy about providing their opinion....and it is well taken. It is all in and about the culture of a place.


Don't know how many of you were around at the very beginning when Brian first started way back when it was a black and white environment on a shared server...which tended to crawl when the traffic flow went up.


Anyway, there was a real life musician there, name escapes me, but it was colonel or captain something as I recall. In any event, he was brutally honest in his assessment of lyrics and when someone took him to task, he simply asked...here I though you were trying to become a better writer...do you want me to lie? He actually left the group...I think because he felt people were here to be a social group with a shared interest....(so much that can be said here, but let's skip that) and he was not able to contribute what he knew best.


Love the idea of safe words...and the idea that you have to find something positive to start with if you are going to tear something up...or at least offer up something positive as a suggestion along with the tear down.





If writing ever becomes work I think I'm going to have to stop

iAccountant --- Info L inc --- Taxboard
#1106249 - 05/03/16 12:07 AM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: John Voorpostel]  
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MidniteBob  Online Content
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Raleigh, ya'll
Hey, John!

Has anyone told you today that you are special, precious, and lovable?

I learned that phrase from a friend of mine years ago....She repeats it as often as she can....I've learned a lot from her, and pass the phrase on as often as I can without sounding all sappy & sh!t:-)))

Midnite

P.S....

Jody's "Muse" & Midnite's "Musers" are two different Sites...Jody worked her F#!$!^^in butt off...

Midnite's "Musers" was a just a "Yahoo" Group of a handful of Friends.

Jody's "Muse" was a gathering of thousands!!!!

"God bless us, every one"....

Midnite





Satchel was right. Something is gaining on me.

The Shoebox & Dinner at Eight trailers available at:

http://www.twometer.com/Two_Meter_Studios/HOME.html
#1106252 - 05/03/16 02:35 AM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: John Voorpostel]  
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Michael Zaneski Offline
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Michael Zaneski  Offline
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Originally Posted by John Voorpostel
I'm easy to critique then because I make almost everything up smile

"As a critiquer, and as a writer, we need to establish why we're putting a song “out there”.."

absolutely...but implied when you post a lyric here is that you want suggestions to improve what you write.


That's true. But re-writing someone's personal story or intention has usually been off limits, until this last decade where there's been an upswing of this becoming more the norm. In past times it's the presentation that's been critiqued and folks wanted critiqued, as in "I think your story would be stronger if you said it this way.."

But now I'm seeing critiquing being strongly influenced by the likes of Aaron Sorkin and others like him, and if not influenced, then at least both are kind of running in parallel.

Have you seen the movie he recently wrote, supposedly based on a book about the recently deceased Apple giant?

There's very little in it that resembles any actually real events in the Apple man's life. But the guy Sorkin wrote about was a jerk and an artist of sorts, with a strong vision of what he wanted, and so Sorkin took these two main ideas and created a movie script that is basically an impressionistic character study.

We've come a long way in fifty years. People have totally different concepts about what entertainment is and what it can be. Mood pieces used to be called things like "Kind of Blue"..impressionistic pieces used to be called things like "Prelude To An Afternoon Of A Faun"..now they're called things like "Steve Jobs."

http://www.fastcompany.com/3052092/...at-arent-true-about-the-apple-co-founder

Yes, Sorkin got the ruthless mindset of the man and how he could be a total jerk--down pat, and he admittedly wasn't interested in writing a biopic. I'm just amazed that we live in a day and age where a famous guy dies, and a couple years later there's a movie out that proudly makes no attempt to do anything other than get that "Steve Jobs mood" across. This kind of thing is recent in our history. Conflating entertainment with history.

Imagine if biographies written in days-gone-by had untrustworthy narrators, or authors that set out to just write mood pieces!

But our ways of critiquing and thinking about it have certainly changed, cuz how we write has changed, and we as people have changed, along with the times. We can get just about anyone with fifteen minutes of fame's personal facts and history just by Googling them, so perhaps there's less need to recreate something historically accurate, as we can easily parse what's true from what's not, ourselves. Perhaps this frees up an Aaron Sorkin to approach a man's life more artistically.

And perhaps it's as easy for us now to critique someone's personal story as it is to rewrite someones personal history to meet our own artistic goals. I'm just trying to sail through the stormy sea of understanding all this.

So maybe Homer's story was originally about a guy named Odysseus who went down the block to pick up a bucket of mead for the weekend and wound up getting drunk with some Trojans and came home after a few days, Penelope hands-on-hips and frowning, Odysseus with his tail between his legs..

And yet "The Odyssey" is supposedly fiction with some factual history in it..maybe Homer sat down with his friends (members of JPGO--"Just Plain Greek Orators")and they rewrote it (orally) 'til it morphed into "The Odyssey" that we know.

And maybe this tradition of conflating entertainment and history goes back farther than I think, LOL.. smile

Mike

Last edited by Michael Zaneski; 05/03/16 05:50 AM.

Fate doesn't hang on a wrong or right choice
Fortune depends on the tone of your voice

-The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon)
from the song "Songs of Love"
from the album "Casanova" (1996)
#1106258 - 05/03/16 11:39 AM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Michael Zaneski]  
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John Voorpostel Offline
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Don't have much to add in the history of critiques and what was in vogue at any one time. Does re-enforce the theory that our culture is a reflection of who we are...meaning that we ourselves, as a group, as a society, have changed. So either the people's perceptions of what is appropriate in critiques have changed, or the critiques themselves now focus on something they did not focus on before...


As for your comments about changing something, I believe it was Mark Twain who said “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”...


And yes, many a historian has embellished the truth..that goes way back. Some, like Heredotus and the more recent Will and Ariel Durant tried to remain faithful to the facts, but many insert their own opinions.


Ghengis Khan, for example, was a far greater figure that many people realize. The facts of his life and his accomplishments and character are greatly obscured because western historians, overlooking their own medieval history, painted him as a sadistic and cruel conqueror.


This goes for biographers too who wrote glowingly of their patrons..and it goes for painters and sculptors who, in anticipation of photoshop, made sure their patrons looked good for posterity.


So I think that re writing someone's story goes back a lot further than a decade...


Maybe the way to look at it is that, in a story, the truth is only useful insofar as it is interesting, reveals character, or moves the story forward.


In that way truth is merely a tool, wielded by the teller as they see fit.










If writing ever becomes work I think I'm going to have to stop

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#1106299 - 05/03/16 06:43 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: John Voorpostel]  
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Originally Posted by John Voorpostel
Don't have much to add in the history of critiques and what was in vogue at any one time. Does re-enforce the theory that our culture is a reflection of who we are...meaning that we ourselves, as a group, as a society, have changed. So either the people's perceptions of what is appropriate in critiques have changed, or the critiques themselves now focus on something they did not focus on before...


As for your comments about changing something, I believe it was Mark Twain who said “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story”...


And yes, many a historian has embellished the truth..that goes way back. Some, like Heredotus and the more recent Will and Ariel Durant tried to remain faithful to the facts, but many insert their own opinions.


Ghengis Khan, for example, was a far greater figure that many people realize. The facts of his life and his accomplishments and character are greatly obscured because western historians, overlooking their own medieval history, painted him as a sadistic and cruel conqueror.


This goes for biographers too who wrote glowingly of their patrons..and it goes for painters and sculptors who, in anticipation of photoshop, made sure their patrons looked good for posterity.


So I think that re writing someone's story goes back a lot further than a decade...


Maybe the way to look at it is that, in a story, the truth is only useful insofar as it is interesting, reveals character, or moves the story forward.


In that way truth is merely a tool, wielded by the teller as they see fit.



Hi John,

It's a matter of degree. What Sorkin and others are doing in the world of writing takes Twain's thought to a further place than ever before. I don't think his movie could have been made ten years ago. Maybe I'm wrong.

But if we change some of the words, Twain's slogan becomes more suspect. "Never let someone's true personal story get in the way of your own version of their personal story" and then it's about do we or don't we, own the personal facts of our own life, or are they up for grabs for another to distort at will.

And it's about authority. We trust journalists to tell the truth. I was raised Catholic and had to unlearn years of a distorted view of world history..the crusades and all. Leaders propagandize. Authority can and has distorted the truth, and we look down on that because their intention was bad. To retain power, etc. We imbue historians with authority too, but cut them more slack. Their intentions are more complex or convoluted but much less sinister. They want to inform us, and without boring us to tears, so the process of deciding what to say and what not to say is in itself a creative act that can and has distorted history, so I'm in full agreement with you on that

There are many movies that wax playfully with real people in fictitious circumstances, like Terry Johnson's screenplay for Nick Roeg's movie "Insignificance" (1985) which puts Marilyn Monroe and Einstein together in a room for over an hour, but the whole presentation leads it's audience to an understanding that this is just a fun "what if these people met" scenario. Sorkin's "Steve Jobs" presents itself as if it's a truthful document of three scenes from his life, and at the end there's a tiny disclaimer saying that it's not.

BTW, I love the Steve Jobs movie. I see it as innovative in many aspects, and pushing the envelope of what we can do as writers. Sorkin himself is an artist. He was looking for a slant on Jobs' life that interested him enough to approach writing a screenplay, and he did.

When you say

Quote
Maybe the way to look at it is that, in a story, the truth is only useful insofar as it is interesting, reveals character, or moves the story forward.

In that way truth is merely a tool, wielded by the teller as they see fit.


--you yourself are thinking like an artist. Artists can't stand to tell the same story over and over again. True artists need to find something interesting to say. But I think the boundaries get nudged a little further and further with each passing year. Apparently Job's family tried to halt production of the movie and failed.

So where's the artistry in country music, that seems to tell the same small handful of stories over and over? Perhaps it's in the clever way that the good songs find to say things a little differently than before. In critiques of country songs, too, there's less a chance someone will flat out say, "Aw, c'mon man, I've heard this story a thousand times" if the song finds a new slant on that old story, or at least a clever way of putting things that feels fresh.

And there's the Occam's Razor..the one obvious thing I've been overlooking. With each passing year, the number of songs in the song pool deepens, and ideas and intentions and stories that may have been interesting and new and innovative fifty years ago can feel old and worn out, simply because they've been done over and over again. This alone is probably the most salient reason we are now focusing more on critiquing the authors intention and actual stories--cuz if we've heard it a thousand times, and they aren't adding anything new or different, our brains turn off and we are bored.

I was brought up to respect the authors intention and leave it alone. But I now understand a little more why that's becoming harder to do.

But there's just something a little slimy to me about the idea that "the truth is just a tool" --even in the lesser sense of pertaining just to writing and other art forms. I don't think I'll ever get used to that idea, even if it's true. I always thought that "the truth" mattered more than that, like it was the monolith in 2001 or something, LOL.

With Sorkin and others who cherry pick and distort history to tell stories they want to tell--I can see and appreciate that for what it is. These are artists trying to find stories they want to tell in the ways they want to tell them. I just know not to look to them for too much surface truth--but maybe the best of them uncover some deeper human truths. And maybe it's these deeper truths we need, as individuals and as a society.

Mike

Last edited by Michael Zaneski; 05/03/16 07:22 PM.

Fate doesn't hang on a wrong or right choice
Fortune depends on the tone of your voice

-The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon)
from the song "Songs of Love"
from the album "Casanova" (1996)
#1106360 - 05/04/16 12:10 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Michael Zaneski]  
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John Voorpostel Offline
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Your arguments pertain to documentaries where you do want the truth....in fact, it is the truth about someone or some "thing" that draws you into it. It is also truth that is valued by the author\film maker...making that chain complete. Everyone from producer to consumer values the truth in a documentary.


But then that genre has spawned a whole industry of "pseudo documentaries" that either filter the truth through some "position or stance" or simply string together a bunch of drivel and sell it as true. There lines get blurred all the time and I think your position is very strong.


But when we are in the realm of fiction, even fictionalized biopics, (you mentioned Argo awhile back...great example because, well, we ARE Canadian smile ) then truth takes a back seat to the needs of the story that has to be coherently told in the time allotted. I do not btw see "truth as a tool" here as something slimy or insidious...it is simply necessary.


And we can go back in history to find examples. The pulp writers made the western heroes and outlaws who they were..sold it as the truth...and they did not reflect the reality or the times or the people. Gangster movies depicting the likes of Bonnie and Clyde, Machine Gun Kelly, Pretty Boy Floyd etc also played fast and loose with the truth.


I think you are looking at this from the "romantic" point of view, the idealistic version if you will. Mass consumer art is a business. It's all about what sells and what will maximize the chance of greatest profit. That IMO is why music sounds the same, movies tell the same stories etc...You have to love the multi part movies like Lord of The Rings, The Hunger Games and Harry Potter that split the last book into two movies. Hell I think they made 3 movies out of The Hobbit, which was the slimmest volume of Tolkien's works.


Now these are obviously fiction but point to art as business.


Here is where you draw a straight line between "how useful is the truth to the bottom line?? "


If writing ever becomes work I think I'm going to have to stop

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#1106374 - 05/04/16 05:12 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: John Voorpostel]  
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MidniteBob Online content
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Raleigh, ya'll
Ok, I'm losing my focus here:-)

Are we chatting about a critiquer's diffuculties with critiquing "personal" songs, or are we going down the road of "historical accuracy" in longer "Art" forms??

'Cause those definitely be apples and pomegranates...

Just curious:-).....

Carry on....

Midnite

P.S....How many threads must a man walk down?....Just being silly there:-)


Satchel was right. Something is gaining on me.

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#1106377 - 05/04/16 06:16 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: MidniteBob]  
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Michael Zaneski Offline
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Originally Posted by MidniteBob
Ok, I'm losing my focus here:-)

Are we chatting about a critiquer's diffuculties with critiquing "personal" songs, or are we going down the road of "historical accuracy" in longer "Art" forms??

'Cause those definitely be apples and pomegranates...

Just curious:-).....

Carry on....

Midnite

P.S....How many threads must a man walk down?....Just being silly there:-)


Midnite,

My original premise was that perhaps what was happening in the world of script writing was a sign of the times--if it was rubbing off on other things like songwriting, and possibly how we are critiquing songs.

If Sorkin is a modern "prophet" then maybe so. Sorkin was my main focus from the beginning. He's become the Paddy Cheyesky of our times. Sorkin's work on "Manhattan" and "Steve Jobs" clearly skirt the lines between fact and fiction, but are embraced as great works of art, with a small contingency of detractors, and I found all this to be a very recent development (mixing things to the degree that they are now) and to be very curious.

My initial question could have read, how would you like it if Sorkin did to your life what he generally does to others? Or perhaps suggesting that you get rid of personal things that were getting in the way of a better song. So scriptwriting, biopics that are more fiction than fact, AND songwriting, AND critiquing songs--this was all under one rather strange and perhaps unwieldy umbrella, in my thinking.

And the general feel is like John V's--that truth should take a back seat--especially if there's a greater truth the artist is trying to uncover.

And all these things may be apples and oranges, but they all exist in the same world and are definitely influencing each other in various ways.

Writers oft times grow by looking at what other writers are doing, and then go "so now it's okay to do that? Why don't I give that a try." Sorkin is breaking new ground and creating a "new rule book" about what writing is and what it can be.

True artists--ground breakers like Sorkin rub off on the lesser of us, and whether coincidental or because of artists like him, there seems to be a definite shift in how we write and how we look at what writers are writing about other writers--critiquing.

I tried to remain Socratic-ally neutral throughout the thread but now show my true colors.

"How many threads.." sounds like you asking me to shut up, so I'll do that now, LOL.. smile

Mike

Last edited by Michael Zaneski; 05/04/16 06:24 PM.

Fate doesn't hang on a wrong or right choice
Fortune depends on the tone of your voice

-The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon)
from the song "Songs of Love"
from the album "Casanova" (1996)
#1106390 - 05/04/16 07:25 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Michael Zaneski]  
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MidniteBob Online content
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Raleigh, ya'll
Originally Posted by Michael Zaneski


...."How many threads.." sounds like you asking me to shut up, so I'll do that now, LOL.. smile

Mike


Don't you EVER SHUT UP!!!!, Mike.....I'm just asking you to try and "focus" your threads here., in this Forum....Sorkin is one of my few long-form "writing" heroes. Long before "West Wing"....And whatever movies that followed....:-)

Carry on....:-)

Midnite

P.S...Perhaps a poor choice of words on your part, Mike...Sorkin isn't a "prophet"...:-)....He's just a story-teller doing his best. Not unnakind to many before him:-)....Perhaps?



Satchel was right. Something is gaining on me.

The Shoebox & Dinner at Eight trailers available at:

http://www.twometer.com/Two_Meter_Studios/HOME.html
#1106396 - 05/04/16 09:00 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: MidniteBob]  
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Michael Zaneski Offline
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Michael Zaneski  Offline
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Originally Posted by MidniteBob
[quote=Michael Zaneski]



I'm just asking you to try and "focus" your threads here., in this Forum....

Midnite


Midnite,

My initial premise--what I personally was focusing on, myself, is the bigger picture of the relationship between prescient artists like Sorkin and us little guys. How they affect our work, if at all. That was the larger question behind my initial question which was really, "how would you feel if you yourself were Sorkinized?" We're songwriters here, and my question was aimed at making this new kind of writing, Sorkin's kind, felt impactfully, at an empathetic/compassionate level by creating that scenerio.

I'm sorry that you feel me mentioning a recent Aaron Sorkin movie and my thoughts on it are me being unfocused as to this post that I started. To me it's re-enforcing my main thesis which is that Sorkin's writing is doing something a bit different and original that takes more liberties with his subjects life than most prior similar works to date, and that when we watch these movies, the knowledge that Sorkin is doing that can rub off on our own writing. This is my main thesis throughout--or at least I thought it was, LOL. I bring up how our own songwriting and critiquing has evolved along similar lines over the years, and ask if it's coincidence or not.

So all the things we talked about and the things John V and I talked about are all part of the conversation. And if you feel otherwise, that's fine, but still, I'm sorry if that's the case.

So with those last two threads, I'm trying pretty much to get back to that larger picture, by bringing the camera back out a little bit, to see that bigger picture, cuz I'm trying to "bookend" my writing, I guess. End with similar things I began with.

PS...I meant "prophet" as in a kind of modern day prophet--echoing the adage that 'artists are the prophets of our times'..and I think this can certainly be true. Who do we look for, for the deeper answers to things? Who do we look for, for real truth? If not to God, than who? Many, I think, would look to some of their favorite writers and musicians, I imagine. smile

Mike

Last edited by Michael Zaneski; 05/04/16 09:19 PM.

Fate doesn't hang on a wrong or right choice
Fortune depends on the tone of your voice

-The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon)
from the song "Songs of Love"
from the album "Casanova" (1996)
#1106406 - 05/04/16 09:54 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: Michael Zaneski]  
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MidniteBob Online content
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MidniteBob  Online Content
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Raleigh, ya'll
I hear ya, Mike!

It just takes me a while to digest....:-)

Midnite


Satchel was right. Something is gaining on me.

The Shoebox & Dinner at Eight trailers available at:

http://www.twometer.com/Two_Meter_Studios/HOME.html
#1106407 - 05/04/16 09:57 PM Re: The Peterman Domain, Manson, and Manhattan: Critiquing Critiquing [Re: MidniteBob]  
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Michael Zaneski Offline
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Michael Zaneski  Offline
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Originally Posted by Michael Zaneski

And yet Aquarius and Manhattan are well told serialized stories with much of the general things intact, and it's an interesting development in storytelling, but makes me wonder if this will impact how we critique things, and perhaps how we should critique things.


This was paragraph five of my initial post. That was my second query. Sorkin writes the series Manhattan.

So you know, I was just trying to bookend my thoughts, and I had just seen the Steve Jobs movie! LOL..

You make me smile with "takes..time to digest.." --it made me consider the idea of "thought roughage." --of which there is probably considerable in mine. grin

Mike

Last edited by Michael Zaneski; 05/04/16 10:49 PM.

Fate doesn't hang on a wrong or right choice
Fortune depends on the tone of your voice

-The Divine Comedy (Neil Hannon)
from the song "Songs of Love"
from the album "Casanova" (1996)

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